A new book critical of China’s president Xi Jinping, written by a Chinese dissident who planned to publish it in Taiwan, is facing difficulty in finding a distributor in Hong Kong.

In early January, Yu Jie, a writer based in the US, was told by his Hong Kong publisher that the publication of his book Xi Jinping’s Nightmare had been suspended due to fear and pressure. Yu contacted five or six other Hong Kong publishers, but none were willing to publish his book.

The book will be published in Taiwan in late February, and Yu has said he is “not optimistic” about whether the Taiwanese version will be available in Hong Kong bookstores.

This week, his Taiwanese publisher told him that Hong Kong distributors were not willing to carry the Taiwanese version in Hong Kong.

Yu Jie. Photo: Yu Jie.

“As of now, we are still editing the Taiwanese version of Yu Jie’s new book; it’s difficult to say what is the situation of distribution to Hong Kong in the future,” said Raymond Cheng, the editor of Yu’s book at Taiwanese publisher Avant Guard.

He said there is an economic side to the issue, that factors like transport costs and discounts are concerns for Taiwanese publishers exporting books to Hong Kong, and Hong Kong bookstores are not very keen on importing Taiwanese books, so separate versions are usually on sale across the Taiwanese strait.

“Moreover, due to the impact of [missing staff of] Causeway Bay Books, it is predictable that Hong Kong distributors are less willing to [sell the book],” Cheng said.

“Although the Causeway Bay Books incident has yet to make a strong impact in Taiwan, to some extent it has made [Hong Kong] distributors a bit more pessimistic in trying to import and promote books.”

Hong Kong publisher Lee Bo went missing on December 30 in Chai Wan, Hong Kong. He is a shareholder of Causeway Bay Books, which specialises in books on political gossip banned in the mainland. Four other members of staff from the store have been missing since October of last year.

Lee Bo, a shareholder of the Causeway Bay Books, went missing on December 30 in Hong Kong. Lee Bo’s wife received an alleged video from Lee Bo on 9 January. A screenshot of the video was printed on Sing Tao Daily on 10 January. Photo: HKFP.

Cheng said that besides the distributors and bookstores that rejected them, Avant Guard was unlikely to work with major chain bookstores Joint Publishing, Chung Hwa and Commercial Press, which are owned by the China Liaison Office through shell companies.

“Their stance is clear, and there have been previous cases of them suppressing related books,” Cheng said.

“We are still working on it, and we hope that there will be readers in Hong Kong who are very interested in this book, that they would urge distributors to import it,” Cheng added. “If the atmosphere is bit more relaxed, it may still be possible to circulate the book [in Hong Kong].”

China’s Godfather, Xi Jinping. Photo: Vivienne Zeng/HKFP.

Both Cheng and Yu said that they will try to distribute and promote the new book’s electronic version through online stores, and contact a few Taiwanese distributors which can deliver the paperback version to Hong Kong for readers to pick up at convenient stores and supermarkets locally.

Yu added that he might also sell 100 copies of the electronic version to his Hong Kong Facebook friends, but he was worried about the safety of the transactions.

“I do not know if it is pathetic of me, or of Hong Kong, that an author is forced to think about these problems,” Yu said.

Yu, originally from Chengdu, is a prolific writer with more than 40 books to his name, including ‘China’s Godfather, Xi Jinping’ and other titles banned in China.

He was under house arrest between 2010 and 2012 before he and his family emigrated to the US.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.